The Germany military, -the Bundeswehr- has been hit with a scandal of widespread abuse in an elite military training center in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.
The news website “Spiegel Online” published on Friday a report on exposed abominable training practices and violent rituals at the Staufer military training center for elite soldiers in the city of Pfullendorf.
The Staufer barrack has been reportedly known for humiliating and violent rituals of recruits and sexual assault among soldier squads.
Internal and so far secret investigations confirmed that sexually sadistic practices have apparently been taking place on a daily basis during the training of soldiers called “Combat First Responders” in Pfullendorf, according to “Spiegel Online.”
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has now personally intervened in the scandal, reports said. After Inspector General Volker Wieker appointed a special investigator to the Special Operations Training Center in Pfullendorf, seven soldiers were immediately dismissed.
Their cases were handed over to the Public Prosecutor’s office in Hemmingen on Tuesday. The seven soldiers have been accused of unlawful detention, criminal assault and coercion.
The Bundeswehr also announced on Friday that it expected other similar cases to be discovered soon.
The initial investigation was launched in October 2016, when a female lieutenant from the medical service met with Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces Hans-Peter Bartels and the Defense Minister to discuss unlawful practices at her barrack.
The woman reportedly stated that she had witnessed unbelievable scenes during the training of the soldiers in Pfullendorf including recruits being forced to get naked in front of their comrades, while their supervisors filmed the process allegedly for training purposes.
She also reported that the instructors forced medically completely nonsensical and obviously sexually motivated exercises like inserting tampons into the anus of male and female recruits. These too had been photographed.
Both accusations had been confirmed in previous investigations, “Spiegel Online” said.
The so-called “Kampfretter” are an elite unit of the German Bundeswehr. Formally, they did not belong to the secret-operating Command Special Forces (KSK), but the unit sees itself as a supporter of the command forces.
The soldiers regularly train for the rescue of injured persons behind enemy lines, and regularly simulate a scenario of being captured.
Investigations uncovered that at the Staufer barracks this training apparently ran completely out of control.
In an initial briefing for the ombudsmen of the Defense Committee, it was said that the trainings were “inappropriate” with regard to respect of human dignity and sexual self-determination.
According to “Spiegel Online,” the Ministry of Defense therefore immediately replaced the Commanding Officer Thomas Heinrich Schmidt, two other staff officers and two sergeants on irrelevant posts, in order to “allow a new beginning”. Colonel Schmidt had been the head of the Staufer barracks since 2013.
Further investigations are now expected to show whether leading servicemen have tolerated or even supported the conditions in paramedic training.
Particularly interesting, is that first indications of the misconduct of training and bullying against women were hinted in 2015, but the Bundeswehr could not find any tangible proof in subsequent investigations.
In addition to the shocking practices during paramedic training, it was also reported that bizarre humiliating rituals occurred on a daily basis among the soldiers who guarded the barracks.
The guard soldiers usually tied each other on chairs, had to remain for hours and were hosed with water.
The latest scandal has come politically inconvenient especially for the Defense Minister von der Leyen, who promoted a better image of German troops with PR campaigns and investments of millions for modern barrack establishments.
Instead of a professional army, which offers an interesting career for young people, the Bundeswehr is once again given the ugly image of a male chauvinist group due to the events in the Staufer barracks, in which rituals such as humiliation and sexual-sadistic training methods continue to take place and are not punished by superiors.
In the latest briefing at the parliament, it was emphasized that the investigations would continue, and that the consequences would be far-reaching.
Inspector General Wieker is expected to inspect the Pfullendorf site in the next few days, while Defense Minister von der Leyen has planned a serious discussion with all inspectors meetings on “Sexual orientation and identity in the Bundeswehr” for upcoming meetings.
However, the question remains whether the scandalous situation in Pfullendorf is also present at other barracks of the Bundeswehr.